Friday, September 22, 2017

Cedar Tree Epiphytes

Recently I got thinking about one of my vining epiphytes...

Cattleya Portia coerulea Mounted

It's on the second mount from the left.  At first I was pretty sure that it was a Dischidia.  My guess was Dischidia acuminata.  But then I became pretty sure that it was a Hoya.  My guess was Hoya micrantha.  I think the reason that I changed my mind was because I saw the flowers.  They looked a lot more like Hoya flowers.  However, they were so small and underwhelming that I didn't bother taking a photo of them.

What's remarkable about this Hoya is how well it does epiphytically.  It does really well.  Really well!   It's definitely a very strong contender for the best epiphytic growing Hoya family plant in Southern California.  I've seen it in several people's collections but nobody ever knows its name.

The other day I decided to inspect the one growing on my Cedar tree...


This one growing on the tree has smaller leaves that are yellow and quite succulent.  During summer I usually water the tree 2x/week at night.  As the temps get cooler I water less frequently.

I inspected the plant more closely but didn't see any flowers.  But I did see this...

It's a seed pod!  Surprise surprise!  The only other of my Hoyas that has produced a seed pod is Hoya serpens.  So far none of my Dischidias has produced a pod.

The other plants in the photo are a bunch of Tillandsia aeranthos volunteers growing on a Nematanthus stem.  Yesterday I was eating some lemon guavas off my tree and I brushed a bit of spider web off of one.  When I looked closer at the web, it was actually the "parachute" of a Tillandsia aeranthos seed, that had just started to germinate.

Also in the photo is Dockrillia teretifolia.  I have three different ones on my tree.  They've all had plenty of time to become specimens, but none have done so.  Maybe they want more water?

Finding the seed pod on my Hoya got me extra curious to see what else was happening on my tree.  So I started climbing.  Here's one of the three NOID orchid seedlings that most recently germinated on my tree...

Here's a pic that I took last year of one of the other NOID seedlings...

New Orchid Seed Germinated On My Tree

All three seedlings are growing next to the roots of a Vanda tricolor/suavis.  The seedlings have been growing soooooo slow.  It's like they are trying to kill me with suspense.

The previous batch of seedlings that germinated on my tree all turned out to be Laelia anceps.  There are around half a dozen on the tree... ranging from super small to blooming size.  I thought the largest seedling would bloom for the first time this year... but nope.  It's been around 6 years since they germinated.  Sheesh.  Here's an album with some pics.

Speaking of super slow seedlings... at the top of this NOID Sedum there was a succulent seedling...

At least I'm pretty sure that it was a seedling.  I was happy to discover that it was still there.  It's been hanging in there for several years.  So I decided to carefully remove it along with a section of the moss that it was growing on.  Here it is with two other small succulents...

Sedum versadense (top) and Sedeveria 'Acultzingo' (right) were also growing on the tree.   The third succulent is the NOID seedling.  Perhaps it's Echeveria nodulosa.  I did sow some seeds of it on my tree a long time ago.

I attached all three succulents to a board with Sphagnum moss on it.  The mount is now hanging in a small section of my garden that I water 3x/week at night during summer.  Hopefully the seedling will respond positively.  As I mentioned in this blog entry, I would like to try and cross Echeveria nodulosa with rosea.

Here's one of the Echeverias that has done really well on the tree...

I'm guessing it's Echeveria minima.  Also in the photo is Columnea Elmer Lorenz, Dischidia formosana, Crassula pruinosa, Sedum rubrotinctum and Cattleya Portia coerulea.

The Echeveria clump is happily growing among the roots of Anthurium schlechtendalii.  If you look closely just below the Echeveria clump you'll see the Anthurium's two very first offshoots.  What's rather surprising is the amount of distance between the offshoots and the root crown.  The angle of the photo makes it hard to tell but the distance is around 2 feet.  Then again, now that I think about it, perhaps they might be seedlings.  Every couple of years or so the Anthurium manages to produce quite a few berries.

One very consistent and productive fruiter is Columnea Elmer Lorenz...

Here are all the fruits that I harvested...

Last month I harvested pretty much the same amount of fruit.  Columnea Elmer Lorenz is the only epiphyte I have that is almost always in bloom.

In order to extract the seeds, I peel the skin and put the fruit into a water bottle that I fill half way with water.  I put the lid on and shake the bottle vigorously to separate the seeds and the fruit.  The seeds will sink to the bottom and the fruity water can be poured off.  Usually there are at least a few unsunken seeds so I'll pour the fruity water into a large bottle.  Once I'm done processing all the epiphyte fruit (ie Anthurium) I'll pour the contents of the large bottle on mounts and in hanging pots/baskets.

This time I decided to drink the Columnea's fruity water.  I knew that the fruit was edible.  Well... I guessed that it was edible.  I remember Kartuz saying that Codonanthe fruit is edible.  Not sure though if he said that all Gesneriad fruit is edible.  Anyways, the Columnea fruit water turned out to be quite bland.

But it got me thinking about how different cultivated corn is from wild corn.  What would the fruit of Gesneriads, Rhipsalis or Anthuriums look and taste like after a 1000 years of selection?

I climbed a little higher on the tree and took a photo of the roots of this Cattleya Portia coerulea...

The roots are covered in moss.  Unfortunately this moss doesn't really escape onto the bark.  I super wish that I could find a moss that would be happy to grow directly on the bark.  It would help capture and germinate all sorts of seeds and spore.

Here's a photo of the shady side of the Anthurium schlechtendalii's root ball...

The plants in this photo include Columnea Elmer Lorenz, Dischidia formosana, Anthurium NOID seedling, Polypodium aureum, Crassula marginalis minuta (?) and an Aeonium that grew from seed that I sowed on the tree.

The Anthurium seedling grew from a seed that I received from Loran Whitelock during a tour of his place.  He had a decent sized Anthurium growing in the ground that had quite a few ripe berries on it.  I asked if I could have some and he said sure.  After I got home I sowed them on the tree.  This seedling and a bigger one higher up on the tree are the result.  Unfortunately, I don't remember taking a photo of the mother Anthurium.  But I'm guessing that it's something that has been referred to as  Anthurium 'whitelockii'.  This page has a picture of a mature plant.  What's rather tricky is that PalmBob and a few other sources indicate that the name has been changed to Anthurium faustomirandae.  From my perspective though the size and orientation of the leaves are quite different.  Plus, the leaves of Whitelock's plant are much more glaucous.

A few years back Dylan Hannon sold an Anthurium on eBay that was very similar to Whitelock's.  Here was the description that he gave...

Anthurium sp. Tomellin Canyon, Oaxaca, Mexico. This is a dramatic species that slowly grows to about 3ft across and not quite as tall. Leaves are strikingly blue-glaucous, very tough and heavy. Spadix and spathe are maroon. Fruits take well over two years to mature. This is an excellent outdoor plant in Southern California and has been around a while since its introduction by the late Loran Whitelock. It goes under a few names but I am not sure any of them are correct and it could still be an undescribed (new) species. Sale item (2nd photo) is a young seedling.

Let's set this mystery aside for a bit and continue climbing the tree...

Not sure if this succulent is a Sedeveria (Sedum x Echeveria) or a Graptoveria (Graptopetalum x Echeveria).  It can get a nice bronzy/burgundy color and does really great on the tree.  It grows super easy from leaf cuttings.  I just break some leaves off and place them wherever I want this succulent to grow.  Evidently I wanted it to grow here among the roots of Cymbidium madidum.  For some context, here's a picture that I took last year...

Cymbidium aloifolium and Cymbidium madidum

The other orchid blooming in this photo is Cymbidium aloifolium.  On the shady side of this orchid is a really neat trailing fern...

Lemmaphyllum microphyllum is an epiphyte and lithophyte from Japan.  It's perfectly happy with our temps here in SoCal.  It can handle drying out, especially during the winter, but it does appreciate a decent amount of moisture when it's warm.  Like the rest of the plants on the tree, this fern receives water 2x/week at night during summer.  However, it's growing on a decent amount of Sphagnum moss.  So far it has not managed to "escape" from the moss.  One of the best escape artists, as far as ferns go, is the somewhat larger trailing epiphytic fern Microgramma vacciniifolia.

Moving up the tree even further I have a big clump of plants all growing with the really excellent fern Aglaomorpha coronans...

In this photo you can see a never-blooming Oncidium sphacelatum, a Codonanthe carnosa (round leaves) that grew from seed sown on the tree, several Echeveria gibbifloras that also grew from seed sown on the tree, and a clump of seed sown/grown Tillandsia aeranthos.

As I mentioned in this entry, the E. gibbiflora seedlings grew really great on my tree... until they reached blooming size.  The very large and heavy rosette would badly bend the trunk and the plant would slowly deteriorate.  There have been a few exceptions.  The E. gibbiflora seedlings in the photo that are growing to the left aren't quite blooming size but the seedling growing to the right is.  It has already bloomed for a couple years but the trunk still hasn't badly bent.  One difference is that this seedling, unlike all the ones that badly bent, has branched.  You can see it a little better from this angle...

There are several different plants in this photo.  At the top is Tillandsia aeranthos (by far my most productive Tillandsia), Crassula sarcocaulis, Sedum rubrotinctum, Oncidium sphacelatum, Aglaomorpha coronans, Echeveria gibbiflora, NOID succulent (Sedeveria?), NOID Sinningia and another clump of Tillandsia aeranthos.

This gibbiflora has actually branched twice and is going to branch again.  Another difference, besides branching, is that the leaves aren't as long and the red outline seems to be more pronounced.  Here's the view from above...

In the upper left hand corner of the pic you can see the second Anthurium seedling that grew from seed that Whitelock let me have.  It is just starting to get the glaucous appearance of mature plants.  Recently I asked my friend if he had Anthurium whitelockii.  He said that he did and he gave me a seedling.  It is between my two seedlings in size, and looks somewhat similar.

If you only saw the Echeveria from this angle you'd really have no idea that it's actually one plant.  Here's a picture that I took last year of the mother plant...

Echeveria Epiplus Orchid - With Trimmed Bush

I attached a Dendrobium orchid and a few Tillandsias to the trunk of the Ecehveria.  It's near a Parkinsonia aculeata tree which has grown quite a bit.  As a result, the Echeveria was in too much shade and it started to lean.  Here's a recent pic...

Echeveria gibbiflora fell into the open arms of Kalanchoe beharensis.  It would be wonderful to have a sturdier Echeveria that readily branched.  Then epiphytes could be attached to its branches.  One potential cross with this goal in mind would be to cross Echeveria gibbiflora with Sedum dendroideum ‘Colossus’.  Wow!  But I'm guessing that they wouldn't be compatible though.

In addition to harvesting a bunch of different seeds from the plants growing on my tree, here are some of the plants that I harvested...

Tillandsia mallemontii clump (upper left) grew from seed that I sowed on the tree.  The picture really doesn't do it justice.  It was so full of blooms that I decided to remove the clump to share divisions with members of the Epiphyte Society.  The Tillandsia aeranthos clump (upper right) grew from seed that volunteered on my tree.  It was growing in my way so I decided to remove it to share.  Below the Tillandsias is a cutting of Columnea Elmer Lorenz.  I didn't make the cutting.  Last month I found 3 other cuttings.  I'm guessing that a squirrel or raccoon had made them.  The last plant is an Echeveria gibbiflora seedling that grew from seed that I sowed on the tree.  It was hanging rather precariously.

My tree has so much going on!!!  I probably only documented 5% of it.  Watching the tree is better than watching most TV shows.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Clivias Epiphytically?

One time I tried to grow a Clivia epiphytically.  It didn't make it.  Maybe it was because I used ghetto moss, or maybe it was because it was low down on the tree and the slugs had super easy access to the roots.  Or maybe I didn't water it enough? 

On the OrchidBoard a member shared a picture of a plant asking for an ID.  My guess was Clivia but a few folks were thrown off by the rhizome.  So I searched Google for Clivia rhizome, and then bare root, and then offshoot, and then pups, and then stoloniferous... but didn't find any relevant pictures.  I said heck with it and unpotted one of my Clivias...

They are somewhat etiolated from growing in too much shade. 

The plant on the left is the original plant, the others are offshoots.   The first one is still attached.  Not sure if the connecting stem is technically a rhizome but... close enough. 

Each plant went into its own pot with very loose and well drained medium, which included a decent amount of old bark. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

How Adaptable Are Orchids?

A few years back my best Brazilian friend sent me some seeds of a nice drought tolerant Begonia.  I ended up with around 50 seedlings, one of which I gave to my friend Scadoxus...

Carlos - Carlos = Michelle's Begonia

She said that it hasn't grown much since I gave it to her.  Which is interesting because mine have certainly grown.

Maybe my thumb is greener?  😁  Or maybe I fertilize more?  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that my area gets warmer than her area.  We both live in SoCal but she's closer to the coast than I am.

It got me thinking.  What if she had sown all the seeds?   In theory, since her area is cooler, the coolest growing seeds would have had an advantage.  So the seedlings she ended up with would have been better adapted to her conditions.

Is this obvious?

Recently I sowed some seeds from two of my Echeveria roseas.  I grabbed 6 hanging baskets/pots that already had well draining medium in them, placed Sphagnum moss on top of the medium and sowed seeds of E. rosea, Columnea Elmer Lorenz, Anthurium scandens, a couple different Rhipsalis and a NOID Sinningia.  I also placed a few pieces of a NOID Peperomia, Pyrossia and Dischidia on top of the moss.  Then I put each basket/pot in a two gallon zip lock bag.  The hanger made a nice teepee with a hole in the top of the bag.  Lastly I put the baskets/pots in two rows of three on a table in the garage under grow lights near an open window.

The Rhipsalis started to germinate the next day, shortly followed by the Anthurium, and then the rest of the seeds started germinating a couple days after.  There was a significant disparity in the number of seeds that have germinated in the pots.  Here's a pot with a bunch of E. rosea seeds that look perfectly viable but haven't yet germinated...

You'll probably have to click on the picture in order to see the seeds.  Here's the pot with the most seedlings in it...

The two pots closest to the window have the most seedlings, the two pots furthest from the window have the least seedlings, and the two pots in the middle have an average amount of seedlings.  It might be a coincidence, but I'm guessing that it has to do with a difference in temperature.  It's marginally cooler closer to the window.  Right after I sowed the seeds it was over 100F each day for a week.  Even though the pots are right next to each other, they are in a small, but significant, continuum of temps.

According to this website, E. rosea is the best Echeveria for the UK.  This means that, not only is it cold tolerant, it's also cooler growing.  Temps over 100F certainly don't count as cool.  Here's where the plot thickens.  I had placed the two blooming roseas right next to other blooming Echeverias  (coccinea, gibbiflora) in order for the hummingbirds to cross pollinate them.  E. coccinea and gibbiflora are warmer growers than rosea.  So in warmer temps, the hybrid rosea seeds would have an advantage over the species rosea seeds.

Here's a pic of a rosea seed just starting to germinate...

You'll have to look closely to see it.

Right now my Epc Cerina 'Nadia' has a nice big seed pod on it…

Here’s what Cerina’s made of...

81.25% = Epi. cinnabarinum
6.25% = Epi. jamiesonis
6.25% = Epi. radicans
3.13% = C. guttata
3.13% = C. luteola

From what I've read, Epi cinnabarinum is a warmer grower with larger flowers.  So it was pretty popular for the reed-stem breeding that was done in Hawaii.  When I asked an Epi grower here in SoCal about Cerina he said that it has never rebloomed for him or produced keikis.  Fortunately, it has for me.  Here’s a pic of a couple of keikis…

Probably the main difference between the Epi grower and myself is that he is right on the coast.  So his conditions are a lot cooler than mine.  The disparity in Cerina’s performance provides some evidence that it does require a decent amount of heat.

Cerina’s flowers are significantly larger than the flowers of typical reed-stems.  Here’s the only pic that I have of them…

Carnivorous Cattleya

The reason that I removed Cerina’s flowers was to more comfortably/carefully extricate the pollen.  I put the pollen into a small zip lock bag and climbed my tree to pollinate the big floofy white Cattleya.  When I inspected the first flower, I discovered that somebody else had already tried to pollinate it, and had died in the attempt.  I pollinated a couple of other flowers and they developed very large pods.  Unfortunately, when I harvested them, they turned out to be completely empty.  The orchid and I were both tricked.

Cerina’s roots, canes and leaves are also larger than typical reed-stems.  Here’s a side by side comparison of the canes of Cerina and the canes of a typical reed-stem...

The pod that is currently developing on Cerina is hopefully the result of pollen from…

Epi (Pacific Eclipse x Pacific Canary) ‘Yellow Sun’ x Epi magnoliae

Scadoxus purchased it from Sunset Valley Orchids and let me borrow it for pollination.   Its yellow flowers are average sized.  The plant itself is more stocky than the typical reed-stem and the leaves are relatively succulent.  Right now it has a keiki on it with several thick roots.

Epi magnoliae is the Northernmost occurring epiphytic orchid in the Americas.  So it's certainly cold tolerant, but I'm not under the impression that it's a cooler grower.  Andy notes the Florida form as favoring warmer temps.  The other states in which it occurs also have hot summers.

Here's the breakdown for Epi. Pacific Eclipse...

46.88% = Epi. cinnabarinum
39.06% = Epi. radicans
14.06% = Epi. jamiesonis

And for Epi. Pacific Canary...

28.13% = Epi. cinnabarinum
25.0% = na (eh?)
23.44% = Epi. radicans
12.5% = Epi. secundum
10.94% = Epi. jamiesonis

Let's imagine that I split Cerina’s seed pod with Scadoxus.  Hopefully the seeds will be able to germinate without flasking or fungus.  My guess is that cinnabarinum would be pretty influential in the cross.  This should mean that more of my seeds would germinate.  However, this might not be the case if we sowed the seeds in the fall.  Even though my area is warmer than Scadoxus' area in the summer, our temps are more equal in the fall and spring, and my area is actually cooler than hers in the winter.

To keep things simple let's say that Scadoxus and myself each ended up with 50 seedlings out of 1000s and 1000s of seeds.  If we exchanged half our seedlings with each other then I'm guessing that, in my garden, my seedlings would grow faster than her seedlings.  In her garden, her seedlings would grow faster than my seedlings.

Is this obvious?

What really isn't obvious to me is the difference in speed.  I have absolutely no idea how much better my seedlings would do in my conditions compared to her seedlings.  Would the difference in performance be barely noticeable?  Or would it be somewhat noticeable?  Or would it be very noticeable?

To put it in terms of blooming... in my conditions how much sooner would my seedlings bloom than hers?  Would my seedlings bloom a week before hers?  Or a month?  Or a year?

The bigger the difference, the more adaptable the cross is.  The bigger the difference, the more rapidly the cross will conform to its conditions.  Right?

We should all know that orchids are adaptable.  But I've never heard of any experiment or study that has attempted to quantify how adaptable any given orchid is.  Well... maybe I have... Sem and Phylogenetic Analysis of Naturalized and Cultivated Epidendrum in Hawaii (PDF).  In Hawaii, cultivated Epis were compared to naturalized Epis.  It seems that there were some noticeable differences between the two groups.  This is interesting given how relatively short a time that the Epis have been naturalized in Hawaii.

Reed-stems naturalizing in Hawaii isn't a very huge feat.  It would be a very different story if reed-stems naturalized in California.  The time it takes for them to be capable of doing so largely depends on how adaptable they are.

Does it matter to us as orchid growers how adaptable orchids are?  The more adaptable an orchid is, the greater the benefit of growing it from seed yourself.

We've all heard the expression that the apple didn't fall far from the tree.  If orchid seeds don't fall far from their parents, then we can't expect that some seeds will be noticeably better suited to our conditions than other seeds.

Assuming that Cerina’s pod is full of seeds, what should I do with them?  Of course I’d be interested in splitting them with Scadoxus in order to try and measure how adaptable the cross is.  But I’ve also considered the idea of dividing them among the members of this forum.  If there are 10,000 members perhaps each one would receive 10 seeds.  Heh.  The more members that successfully germinated their seeds, the more adaptable the cross is?

In order to get the individuals that are best suited to my conditions, I should sow all the seeds myself.  It’s always better to select from a larger pool of trait combinations.  But what if I divide the seeds among 10 members?  On the one hand, a smaller pool means somewhat less well-adapted seedlings.  On the other hand, if 10 other members also grow the same cross, then… what?

My number one plant rule is to hedge my bets.  The other day, when I inspected one of the pots with E. rosea seedlings, I discovered half a dozen tiny bush snails.  I have no idea how they got in there… but it’s a good thing that I hedged my bets by sowing the seeds in 5 other pots, each in their own ziplock bag.  If I shared Cerina’s seeds with 10 other members, then hopefully I would be able to obtain some seedlings from these members if something happened to mine.  This alone is adequate justification for sharing the seeds.

In terms of making progress though, would there be any benefit to sharing the seeds?  Here’s how I personally define “progress” when it come orchids…

Drier growing (requiring less frequent watering)
Cooler and warmer growing (hercuthermal)

Let’s say that I give 10,000 seeds to my friend Orchid Dude.  If he keeps the seeds/seedlings in one of his greenhouses, then the perfect conditions won’t provide an advantage to the individuals that are exceptionally drier growing and/or hercuthermal.  So if he shares some of his seedlings with me, because something happened to mine, then I’d be glad that I hedged my bets.  But his seedlings probably wouldn’t be very “progressive”, for lack of a better term.

So in terms of maximizing progress, the seeds should be shared with the members whose conditions/culture will favor the most progressive individuals.  In other words, the seeds should be shared with the members who will provide optimally challenging conditions.  Except, the large majority of people with optimally challenging conditions probably aren't members of this forum.  So I'm leaning towards the idea of auctioning off the seeds to forum members in order to raise money to promote the thread dedicated to the project.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Nature Abhors A Vacuum

Reply to: Most Northern Florida location of tampensis?


Here's a distribution map of Encyclia tampensis. It doesn't appear that there are any records for Alachua county. For comparison, here's the distribution map of Epidendrum conopseum.

If I was in your shoes, I'd definitely try and grow Encyclia tampensis. You're right on the border of its natural limit. But you'd have to expect that, every once in a while, a particularly bad freeze might wipe out your tampensis. But if you spend $10 dollars for a tampensis, and get 5 years of enjoyment from it, then that's not the worst investment. In comparison, you only get 15 minutes of enjoyment from a $10 dollar meal.

I definitely wouldn't buy very many tampensis though. Instead, I'd buy a lot of conopseum crosses. Eplc Butterfly Kisses (Lc Trick or Treat x Epi. conopseum) isn't too shabby (photo). There's actually one available on eBay. I think it looks better than tampensis. Another cross available on eBay is Epi. conopseum x C. purpurata.

You're super fortunate that there's a vendor on eBay, bluemossguy, who regularly offers crosses with conopseum. Right now he's selling a flask of Epidendrum conopseum x Brassavola nodosa for only $15 dollars. What a great cross! I bought 3 seedlings of this cross from him a couple years ago and am really happy with them. I wish that I had gotten an entire flask. I could still do so, but it's hard to justify the purchase when I already have three plants of this cross.

Getting a flask is a good idea because you can expect some drought/temperature tolerance variation among the seedlings. The larger the pool of seedlings, the more closely suited some of them will be to your conditions. With this logic in mind, it would be optimal to sow as many seeds on your trees, and the street trees, and your neighbors' trees, as possible. I've had some success with this technique here in dry, parched and thirsty Southern California. So you should have a lot more success in rainy, wet and humid Florida.

There's a limit though to how many flowers you can personally cross-pollinate. You'd end up with a lot more seed pods if you recruited the natural pollinators. Bees are cool, but hummingbirds are the coolest. I've witnessed my hummingbirds trying to make all sorts of crazy crosses (ie Echeveria x Aloe). I've seen them visiting orchid flowers as different as Dendrobium bigibbum and Dockrillia teretifolia. Both orchids have ended up with pods.

Hummingbirds like to pollinate reed-stem orchids. Sunset Valley Orchids (SVO) sold a cross between a reed-stem and conopseum...

(Epi. Pacific Eclipse x Epi. Pacific Canary) 'SVO Yellow Sun' x Epi. conopseum 'SVO'

Not sure if there are any still available. My friend bought one and let me borrow it to try and cross it. There are two pods on it but they kinda stalled out. It does have a really nice keiki on it. The plant itself is a lot more like a typical reed-stem. But it's more stout and succulent. I think it might actually make a pretty great epiphyte.

Another orchid that hummingbirds love to pollinate is Broughtonia sanguinea. It's a really awesome orchid. Coincidentally, today I just harvested a pod that was made by a hummingbird. The plant had finished blooming a while back but when I went to harvest the pod, I noticed that the spike was just starting to produce more flowers. So you don't want to cut off a spike that's still green. This species is relatively drought tolerant, but it isn't very cold tolerant.

Sophronitis cernua is another great orchid that the hummingbirds love to pollinate. Not sure if I remember correctly, but I thought that bluemossguy sold crosses of it with conopseum.

There are lots of really fun and exciting possibilities! You can choose from numerous really different orchids. When you make your choices and attach them to trees, then nature (conditions/pollinators) can choose among them. You can then choose among nature's choices. This virtuous cycle is a cross between artificial selection and natural selection. It's so much teamwork that we can think of it as collaborative selection. Or holistic selection. Or some better term.

Way back when I used to be a species guy, but then I decided that I cared more about results. For me whether an orchid was a species or hybrid was less important than whether it thrived on a tree. Then I realized that slugs sure don't care whether an orchid is a species or hybrid! Neither do hummingbirds. Or the weather.

Nature definitely doesn't care whether an orchid is a species or hybrid. What she cares about is the conquest of space. Nature abhors a vacuum. She wants to fill Canada with epiphytes sooner rather than later. We can, and should, give her a hand.

I'm guessing that your society's input might be a little different? Heh. Variety is the spice of life. Let me know what your society says. And please share updates on your project.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Winner Of Epiphyte Grand Prix

Around 6 years ago I started a thread in the forum... Epiphyte Grand Prix.  Figured I'd share the contest here as well.

May 2011 I added this bundle of plants to my Cedar tree...

Epiphyte Grand Prix

Here's what the bundle included...

  • Aeschynanthus hybrid - cutting
  • Anthurium scandens (xeric form) - rooted
  • Begonia NOID - cutting
  • Campyloneurum angustifolium - cutting
  • Cissus amazonica - cutting
  • Dermatobotrys saundersii - rooted
  • Disterigma pentandrum - cutting
  • Ficus diversifolia (Variegated) - rooted
  • Hatiora rosea - cutting
  • Hoya engleriana - cutting
  • Impatiens keilii - cutting
  • Iresine herbstii - cutting
  • Macleania insignis - rooted
  • Medinilla sedifolia - cutting
  • Pleurothallis palliolata - keiki
  • Pleurothallis restrepioides - keiki
  • Tillandsia albertiana
  • Tillandsia butzii 

Can you guess who the winner is?

Here's a photo of the bundle in 2013...

Dermatobotrys saundersii and Anthurium scandens Growing Epiphytically

The Dermatobotrys and Anthurium were the only two survivors from the original bundle.  Then maybe a year, or two, ago... because of the drought, I reduced watering from 3x/week to 2x/week during summer.  The Dermatobotrys crashed and burned.  But the Anthurium didn't even slow down.  Here's a pic that I took yesterday...

The Anthurium would be a bigger specimen but I've shared quite a few cuttings over the years.  The "flowers" are insignificant to say the least, but its berries go from white to a nice light purple.  What's great about this species is that it's a drier grower.  When I ordered it from Black Jungle I specifically requested the xeric form.  I have a few other Anthuriums on my tree (ie coriaceum, schlechtendalii) but they are standing still compared to scandens. 

The scandens beat a few other plants that I added to the bundle, including an Echeveria nodulosa that I added in 2012...

Dischidia cleistantha

In the 2013 photo, if you look hard enough, you can still see it.  But it never really did that well and slowly diminished away.  This is somewhat surprising since nodulosa can sometimes be found growing epiphytically in its natural habitat.

The Dischidia cleistantha (shingler) did much better.  It wasn't very happy though when I reduced watering to 2x/week.  There are a couple places on the tree where it's still hanging on.  Dischidia milne (bottom of 2013 pic and middle of 2017 pic), on the other hand, didn't have a problem with less frequent watering.  It's more of a drier grower than Dischidia formosana (dangling in 2017 pic), which will die off if dry for too long.  However, formosana is a lot faster than milne.  I'm guessing it's partly because formosana probably grows in a wider range of temperatures.

Jumping back to Echeveria nodulosa... I recently saw this thread that Stan started for his.  Seeing it reminded me that I was really interested in this Echeveria that oldstumpy1 had shared in this 2013 thread...

I shared the photos with John Trager and he said that it looks a bit like a cross between Echeveria rosea and nodulosa.  For some reason I don't run across very many crosses with either.  Here are a few exceptions...

Echeveria corrinea x rosea
Echeveria pulidonis x rosea (flowers)
Echeveria coccina x rosea

In my previous entry I mentioned that I'm currently germinating rosea seeds that were hopefully the result of pollen from Echeveria coccinea and/or gibbiflora.  I wish that nodulosa had been one of the potential fathers!

The goal is to try and find/create an Echeveria that can easily beat Anthurium scandens here in Southern California.  In theory it shouldn't be a mission impossible given that Echeverias are relatively easy to cross.  The time it takes to accomplish this mission depends on the number of crosses tested.  So let's test more crosses! 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Begonia Diamantina

A couple years ago my best Brazilian friend, who I've never met in real life, sent me seeds of a few different plants, including a terrestrial Begonia.  A terrestrial Begonia?  Sometimes I'll say, "If it's not an epiphyte, or a phorophyte, then it's not for me!"  There are certainly some epiphytic Begonias, but they are generally pretty thirsty, which doesn't work so well here in parched Southern California.  What I've discovered is that plenty of drought tolerant terrestrials can actually make pretty decent epiphytes.

Here's a picture of my tree in 2012...

Begonia boliviensis growing Epiphytically

Begonia boliviensis and Echeveria gibbiflora are both terrestrials.  They did well epiphytically... for a while.  Each one has the opposite issue.  The Begonia's pendent form is perfect for growing on a tree, and it's drought tolerant, but it isn't a drier grower.  The Echeveria, on the other hand, is definitely a drier grower.  It grows really fast and quickly develops a trunk, which eventually badly bends and causes the plant's gradual decline and eventual demise.  So its upright form is far from perfect for growing on a tree.  There have been a few rather interesting exceptions.  I'd love to speed up the evolutionary process in order to see its optimal epiphytic form.

There are a few mainly epiphytic Echeverias... such as rosea.  Here's a picture of it from "The Genus Echeveria" (I think) by John Pilbeam...

So nice!!!  Here's a picture of it blooming on my tree in 2012...

Echeveria rosea and Tillandsia bulbosa

It was growing a few other places on the tree as well.  They were fine when I watered 3x/week at night during summer, but weren't so fine when I reduced the frequency to 2x/week.

Echeveria rosea's form is much better than gibbiflora's form for growing on trees, but gibbiflora is a much more drier grower than rosea is.  It would be wonderful to have the best of both worlds!

In a small section of my garden that I water 3x/week I have some happy roseas growing in baskets and on mossy boards.  When two of them bloomed earlier in the year I placed them right next to some blooming gibbifloras and coccineas growing in pots.  I was hoping that the hummingbirds would do all the work of cross-pollinating them.  Recently I sowed the seeds from the roseas and I'm crossing my fingers that some of the seedlings will be better at growing epiphytically here in SoCal.

My Echeveria strategy is the same one that I've planned on using with the Begonias.  I've been on the lookout for drier growing Begonias... so I was really happy that my friend in Brazil sent me some seeds of one.  I used water bottles for pots and put pure pumice in some and a mix of pumice and peat in others.  On top of the medium I put a layer of New Zealand Sphagnum.  I thoroughly watered the pots, sowed the seeds on top of the moss, misted the seeds and put the pots in ziplock bags, which I placed near windows or under lights.  When the seedlings started to get too big for the bags, I gradually opened them in order to slowly acclimate the seedlings.  Then I placed them outside in a somewhat shady area.  I don't think that I lost a single Begonia over the winter.  Here's a pic of the seedlings right before I divided and potted them up (13 Aug 2007)...

They look like nasturtiums!   They were in a decent amount of shade and weren't very drought stressed.  The ferns are all volunteers.  They popped up when the pots were in the bags.  Some might have come up from the Sphagnum, but some might have also come up from the additional epiphytic moss that I added to the pots.  There were also a dozen or so regular Begonias.  I'm not exactly sure where they came from.

Here's a pic of the plants after I unpotted them...

I grouped the plants according to their medium.  Can you guess which group was in pure pumice?  Let's just say that when I potted them up I didn't use pure pumice...

There are around 50 seedlings.  I had already given one to Fernando and another to Scadoxus.  I placed the Begonias in square pots in a sunnier spot that I water once a week during summer.  The Begonias in the water bottle pots went back to their original location.

I'm not exactly sure which species my Begonia is.  My friend said venosa but I don't think that they are.  Then again, they have been growing in a decent amount of shade.  They might look pretty different after getting some direct sun.  I believe that my Begonias are from Chapada Diamantina.  So I searched Flickr for "Diamantina" and created a gallery for the pics of Begonias.  Most of the Begonias look the same but there are a few that look different.  What's a little "tricky" is that there are actually two places in Brazil named "Diamantina".  In the state of Bahia there's a region called Chapada Diamantina and in the state of Minas Gerais there's a city called Diamantina.

According to this article, my Brazilian Begonia might be Begonia umbraculifera.  When I did an image search I found this page with a photo of a Begonia that looks quite similar to mine.  What are some other possibilities?  A few of the Begonias in my Flickr gallery are identified as Begonia grisea.  When I search Google images for Begonia grisea, the fourth image is from an article about Begonia petasitifolia.  It looks very different compared to this Begonia petasitifolia.  If its leaves unfurled would they look like the leaves on my Begonia?

Whatever my Begonia is, so far it seems to be a decent drier grower.  But I doubt that its tall upright form is the best for growing epiphytically.  I definitely plan on trying to cross it with Begonias that have a more suitable form, such as boliviensis.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Better Treasure Maps

I really love plants. The first thing that I did when I moved into my house was replace the front lawn with a wide variety of super interesting drought tolerant plants.  Why should that space only have one plant when it can have many plants?!  In economic terms, the opportunity cost of the lawn was way too high.

The awesomeness of having more interesting plants in any given space is the basic premise of "phorobana".  A phorobana is any potted plant (ie bonsai) that has epiphytes growing on it.  For the sake of facilitating communication I took the liberty of creating the word "phorobana" (phorophyte + ikebana).  Plus, having a unique word for the idea makes it easier to search for and find relevant material.

It's a basic fact of life that space is always limited.  A larger house means a smaller garden.  More lawn means less biodiversity.  The beauty of phorobanas is that they facilitate biodiversity.  They put more treasure on a map.

There's usually quite a bit of treasure at plant shows.  However, just like gardens, shows have a limited amount of space.  Check out this photo that I took at a plant show...

Is this an Uncarina?  If you look closely to the right of it you can see a Dockrillia orchid mounted on a piece of cork.  Coincidentally, my friend recently shared a photo of his specimen Dockrillia linguiforme...

Dockrillia linguiforme

As you can see, the orchid is suspended in mid-air.  Taking advantage of vertical space frees up horizontal space for more treasure.

The Uncarina has vertical space that could be occupied by the Dockrillia.  If the same person already owned both plants, then adorning the Uncarina with the orchid would create room on the map for more treasure.  If, on the other hand, the orchid was purchased for this purpose, then more treasure would be added to the map without sacrificing any horizontal space.

The Uncarina and the Dockrillia are both great ideas.  Would combining these two great ideas result in an even greater idea?

Peanut butter is a great idea... so is jelly... and so is bread.  Most people would agree that the combination of these three ideas is greater than any of these ideas on their own.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

With all the different ingredients in the world... the possibilities are endless.  This is just as true for phorobanas as it is for dishes.  The orchid family alone has more than 20,000 really diverse epiphytic species.  Not to mention all the hybrids.

How long will it take to find the phorobana equivalent of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?  It's a numbers game.  Finding the lovely outliers in less time depends on more people creating more combinations of epiphytes and potted plants.  Progress depends on difference.  More difference means more progress.

Right now plant shows are the equivalent of eating peanut butter, jelly and bread separately.   These ingredients are good... but they are so much better together!  Yes, at ikebana shows there are arrangements that people can "taste".   Even though the arrangements can be aesthetically pleasing, they aren't sustainable or informative.  But imagine that you are at a phorobana show and you see a Dockrillia happily growing on an Uncarina.  If you're familiar with the orchid but unfamiliar with its host, then you can reasonably guess that their requirements are somewhat similar.  In this case the association would be informative.

Phorobana shows will be far more informative and interesting than regular plant shows.  To help support this conclusion I'll show you some of my epiphytically enhanced potted plants...

Phorobanas should be on everybody's treasure map!  Nobody should overlook this valuable idea!  The question is... just how valuable is it?  Does it matter?

In this video a street vendor is selling artwork by Banksy.  The artwork is priced far below market value... but the vendor doesn't inform anybody that it's original art by Banksy.  It's the closest thing you'll see to people walking past $100 dollars bills just sitting in the middle of the sidewalk.

Imagine the equivalent scenario with some hunters and gatherers. Of course they are hungry... yet they simply walk past some plants that are loaded with perfectly ripe squash.

In some of the older orchid articles there are accounts of workers in tropical orchards regularly removing the "parasites" growing on the trees.  They would rake the precious plants into huge piles and burn them.

Our behavior is far less beneficial when we don't know how valuable things are to other people.  In order to maximize beneficial behavior it's necessary to share and learn the value of things.

When we go to a plant show/sale we might find numerous plants that we'd be really happy to have.  We can tell a vendor... "I really love that plant!"  But usually the vendor doesn't just give it to us.  This is because talk is cheap.  It doesn't cost us anything to simply say that we really love something.  In order to prove that we truly love something, we have to be willing to spend our money on it.  If we are willing to pay the price for the plant then the vendor will be happy to give it to us.

Spending our money helps to improve the treasure maps of vendors.  The accuracy of their maps determines our benefit!  We sure don't benefit if vendors overlook plants that we value.  So we use our money to inform vendors which plants are more valuable/needed/wanted/important/relevant.  Plant sales give us the immensely wonderful opportunity to superficially ("I love that plant!") and substantially ("I'll buy that plant") participate in the prioritization process.  Because everyone is allowed to participate in this process, it makes it far more likely that any given shopper will be as happy as a kid in a candy store.

Perhaps this might seem pretty obvious... yet plant shows don't give everyone the opportunity to substantially participate in the prioritization process.  And neither do plant forums!  This forum is packed with products but we really don't substantially participate in the prioritization process.  Same thing on Flickr... and Youtube... and Netflix.  We're allowed to superficially participate in the prioritization process by commenting on and/or rating the different products... but we don't substantially participate.  In the absence of substantial participation... the true value of the products is unknown... which means...

1. we overlook valuable products
2. less valuable products are supplied
3. we're less happy in the candy store than we should be

For Netflix the solution is simple.  Subscribers should be given the option to earmark their fees to their favorite content.  They'd still have complete access to all the content but they'd also have the opportunity to substantially participate in the prioritization process.

A while back on Netflix I watched BBC's documentary "Wild Arabia".  In one episode I was quite surprised to see a branch that was covered in epiphytes...

The tree is in the Dhofar mountains in the country of Oman.  I really didn't know that Oman has epiphytes!  Did you?

Unfortunately, the scene was way too short.  I wanted to see and learn so much more about these epiphytes.  If Netflix had given me the opportunity to earmark my subscription dollars to specific scenes, then I definitely would have earmarked quite a few to this one.  I'm guessing that there wouldn't be too many other people in the same boat as me.  But how many subscription dollars would subscribers earmark to shows about plants?  I don't know.  Neither does Netflix.  It's easy enough to find out though.

This system of substantial and specific feedback is applicable to all organizations that have subscribers.  But the same system can also work with donors.

When the students in my friend's 4th grade class donate their pennies to their Book Dept, they can use them to help determine the order (relative importance) of their favorite books.  When they donate their pennies to their Communication Dept, they can use them to determine the order of their favorite blog entries.  This same system could be used for forum threads.

We'd all have the option to donate money to the forum in order to help determine the order of our favorite threads.  Not only would our donations support the forum, but they'd also bring the most valuable threads to each other's attention... "Hey!  Here's some treasure!  Please don't overlook it!"

For all intents and purposes... each member of this forum is in the same tribe!  :)   We probably don't have to worry about any of our members overlooking squash... but how many new books, articles, blog entries, threads, videos and events are there every day?  None of us has the time to read, watch and attend everything.  So it's way too easy to miss many valuable things.  This is why it's so important to appreciate that our tribe, as a group, can read, watch and attend far more things than any single member of the tribe can. Our tribe, as a group, has far more eyeballs, ears, hands and feet than any single member of the tribe has.  Most importantly... our tribe, as a group, has far more brains than any single member of the tribe has.  As a group, our tribe can cover far more ground and gather/process far more information than any single member of the tribe can.  But in order to realize the incredible potential of our collective body and brain... we need to use our money to improve each other's treasure maps.  When each member of our tribe has a far better treasure map, then every single one of us will make far more informed decisions which will improve our treasure maps even more.  Our tribe will be the smartest and most powerful and most influential tribe on the internet. We will win the internet. At least until other tribes figure out the secret to our success.

Think about it though... if it's beneficial for each and every member of our tribe to use our money to improve each other's treasure maps... then imagine how beneficial it will be when each and every member of the human race uses their money to improve each other's treasure maps. Then we will be the smartest and most powerful and most influential species in the universe. We will win the universe.

Admittedly, for all I know, some other species has already won the universe.  But I do know that phorobanas wonderfully illustrate the idea of a map having more treasure (epiphytic enrichment).

Here's a photo that I took earlier in the year of my very first phorobana...

The Dendrobium x delicatum was blooming.

Does my phorobana look crowded?  Well yeah, it's crowded with coolness!  This relatively small Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla) is carrying way more than its fair share of precious biodiversity.  One very tiny passenger is Cleisostoma scolopendrifolium...

Cleisostoma scolopendrifolium

Epiphytic enrichment is nicely described in this passage about an aquarium...

The condensed reef's extraordinary hues and alien life forms cast a New Age vibe. To stand in front of this rectangular bottle is to stand on a harmonic node. Here are more varieties of living creatures crammed into a square meter than anywhere else on the planet. Life does not get any denser. The remarkable natural richness of the coral reef has been squeezed further into the hyper-natural richness of a synthetic reef. - Kevin Kelly, Out of Control  

Every little corner of the world should be packed with treasure.  Every space on every person's map should be packed with treasure.  Everybody should be surrounded by valuable opportunities.  Everybody should clearly recognize all the valuable opportunities that are available to them.  Therefore, everybody should use their money to help each other clearly see all the valuable opportunities.

Ok, so we've covered quite a bit of conceptual ground.  Next we can consider some of the practical aspects... such as sources for epiphytes/hosts and matching them.

My favorite sources for epiphytes here in Southern California are Andy's Orchids, Santa Barbara Orchid Estate, Sunset Valley Orchids and Kartuz Greenhouses.  Kartuz is also a great source for different potential hosts.  Zooming out... by far the single best source for epiphytes/hosts is eBay.

The endlessly fascinating challenge is matching epiphytes and hosts!   Logically they should have similar cultural requirements.  You probably don't want to attach a Dracula orchid to a Golden Barrel Cactus.  Maybe the easiest way to culturally match hosts and epiphytes is to learn which hosts epiphytes naturally grow on in nature.

Here's a photo of a Cabbage tree (Cussonia spicata) in nature with an orchid (Polystachya ottoniana) growing on it...

Here's my Polystachya ottoniana....

Here's Denise's Cussonia spicata...

Her C. spicata is missing a P. ottoniana and my P. ottoniana is missing a C. spicata!  Should she give me her Cussonia or should I give her my Polystachya? :D   Perhaps the rule is that ornaments are gifted to the owner of the Christmas tree.  :)

There are a few relevant cultural details to point out.  The bark on a relatively young Cussonia clearly doesn't have nearly as much texture as a mature tree.  Also, when the Polystachya grows on the Cussonia in nature, even though they get roughly the same amount of water... I'm guessing that it's a lot more humid there in South Africa than here in Southern California.  These two differences (texture, humidity) can be balanced out by giving the orchid some moss and/or more water.  If watering frequency is increased then the Cussonia's drainage also needs to be increased (ie more gravel/pumice).

What's rather fascinating about Polystachya ottoniana is its distribution...

Mediterranean Climate Native Epiphytic Orchids?

This is a map of South Africa.  The blue area represents the Mediterranean climate and the black squares represent documented occurrences of Polystachya ottoniana.  As far as I know this is the closest that any epiphytic orchid species comes to being Mediterranean.  So maybe here in California it might actually take advantage of our winter rain and not be so bothered by somewhat less frequent watering in summer?  

It's pretty easy to match hosts and epiphytes based on their natural associations.  But you can also match hosts and epiphytes based on their natural habitats.  Since California is so dry I'm especially interested in epiphytes that occur in seasonally dry tropical forests.  On Flickr I created a gallery of orchids growing on cactus and other succulent plants.

A couple of those photos are of Zelenkoa onusta growing on a cactus in the US Botanic Garden conservatory.  How cool is that?!   This small orchid naturally grows on cactus in Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.  Not only does it have nice yellow flowers but it also has really neat pseudobulbs...

Favorite pseudobulbs

Another really nice smaller orchid from a drier habitat is Laelia sincorana...

In bright light this orchid will have roundish pseudobulbs and short succulent leaves.  I refer to these type of orchids as teapot orchids (short and stout).  In its native country of Brazil, Laelia sincorana naturally grows on Vellozia species.  Vellozias are so very awesome!  Quite a few different epiphytes grow on arborescent Vellozias in nature because their fibrous branches are especially good at holding moisture.  It's a real shame that they are so scarce here in Southern California!

Encyclia pyriformis is another of my favorite teapot orchids...

Encyclia pyriformis

Nature makes the best ornaments!  Here are some pictures of potential hosts...

Not sure which plant this is... Dracaena draco or arborea?

Dracaena marginata is fairly common and can be grown from relatively large cuttings.  Here's a relevant passage about growing hosts from substantial cuttings...
In completely tropical climates, where the temperature never falls below 55F., the trees could be placed anywhere in the garden or patio. This assumes that severe winds or very dry desert air are not a factor. In such tropical settings, larger trees could also be used. In temperate climates both the trees and the orchids will require a greenhouse or its equivalent. Anyone with a large greenhouse could plant one or more trees directly in the ground. This can be seen, in a well-done fashion, at The Marie Selby Botanical Garden in Sarasota, Florida. There are several good-sized Crescentia trees covered with orchids in their display house. Most people will probably prefer to maintain semi-dwarf trees in large pots. These might be mounted on dollies for mobility, if desired. It may be necessary from time to time to air layer new trees as the old ones become too root-bound and lanky. Probably all of the trees listed will air layer rather easily. Most will also root easily as cuttings under mist. Some, such as Calliandra, Erythrina, Codiaeum, Acnistus, Tabebuia and Crescentia, will root without mist from large cuttings, even up to fence post size. Many of the trees have showy or fragrant flowers, some have attractive edible fruit and several have unusual foliage colors. Any can be grown from seed if it is available and you have the patience. - John Beckner, Host Trees for Cultivated Orchids
Here are some other plants that can be grown from substantial cuttings...

Cup of Gold

My friend sent me a photo of this Ficus rubiginosa growing epiphytically...

Most likely this Ficus is going to be chopped off and thrown away.  A much better use for it would be for a phorobana.  So I told my friend that he should ask the owner for it.

From my perspective, the one group of plants with the greatest phorobana potential are the Aloes...

This is Aloe Hercules (barberae x dichotoma) in a SoCal nursery.  I have no idea how this one ended up with so many low branches.  But it would be awesome if all the branches were adorned with teapot orchids.

Hercules doesn't usually branch so frequently at a low height.  So it doesn't strike me as a particularly good candidate for phorobanas.  A cross with far more potential was made by Karen Zimmerman...

This is a cross between Aloe ramosissima and tongaensis.  Aloe ramosissima tends to have numerous low branches that are substantial enough for teapot orchids.  Unfortunately... it has a few issues.  It's a really slow grower, it doesn't grow so easily from cuttings and is fairly prone to rot.  Aloe tongaensis is somewhere in between barberae and ramosissima in terms of branch quantity and height.  It doesn't have the same issues as ramosissima and might be one of the best Aloe species for phorobanas.

The question is... is Karen's cross even better for phorobanas than tongaensis?  I'd sure love to find out.

One Aloe species that is rather interesting is Aloe tenuior.  It's a relatively fast grower that produces several upright stems that are around 2-3' tall.  It doesn't seem to have an issue with rot.  Plus, it grows easily from cuttings and when a stem is beheaded, it will produce one or more new heads.  The only real drawback is that the stems aren't substantial enough for teapot orchids.

A few years ago I pollinated my tenuior with pollen from a bunch of different tree Aloes. I didn't keep track of which pollen went into which flower. But now I have four Aloes from the cross.  They aren't quite blooming size but I'm pretty sure that at least three of them are hybrids. At first I guessed that they all had the same father but now I'm guessing otherwise.

Here's a photo that I took in November 2015 of one of the largest seedlings next to Aloe tenuior...

At this stage I started suspecting that this seedling and a few others might be hybrids rather than selfings.  Six months later I took this photo...

Aloe tenuior is in the back.  The seedlings all got taller and heftier... and then slowly flopped over.  It was like watching a slow motion trainwreck!  Earlier this year I potted three of them up and staked them...

The Aloe on the far right might be a cross between ramosissima and dichotoma.  It's substantial enough for teapot orchids but super slow.  Aloe tenuior is on the bottom right.

Here's a recent photo...

I should have used taller stakes!  The plant on the left is one of my hybrids.  It has a stem that is 2x as thick as tenuior's stem.  To the right of it is tenuior.  On its right is one of my hybrids that has a stem that is 4x as thick.  On the far right is my hybrid with a stem that is 3x as thick.  The tops of the stems are thicker than the bases.  I'm hoping that the bases will thicken with age and then they'll be able to support the weight of the stems.  In any case, the tops of the stems can be cut off and potted.  Hopefully the headless stems will produce new heads like tenuior does.

The hybrid on the left is by far the slowest.  The hybrid in the middle is by far the largest, which is interesting because it was the runt of the litter.  It was so small that I didn't even bother including it in the first two photos.  The hybrid on the right is by far the fastest.

What's fascinating is that the middle hybrid only has one basal shoot, the hybrid on the right has a gazillion and the hybrid on the left has several.  My tenuior produces a few basal shoots.  Here are all the potential fathers...

Aloe africana 
Aloe arborescens
Aloe dichotoma
Aloe Hercules
Aloe tongaensis
Aloe thraskii
Aloe vaombe

The only potential father that produces numerous basal shoots is arborescens.  I've read, and heard, that it tends to be dominant in its hybrids.  None of my hybrids resemble arborescens.  Honestly I was somewhat surprised that any of the fathers were compatible with tenuior.  They are superficially quite different.  Aloe tenuior and similar species have recently been moved into their own genus... Aloiampelos.  So all my crosses are intergeneric.

The other day I gave my friend Fernando cuttings of my two most prolific tenuior hybrids.  It was the first time that I've shared cuttings.  The offshoots are only now getting large enough to share.  It's interesting to participate in the very first dissemination of a new plant.  So far the hybrid with the least offshoots is spreading slower than the hybrids with more offshoots.  I'm guessing that this will continue to be the case.  It stands to reason that the shareability of a plant will significantly influence its proliferation.  Here in Southern California, Aloe arborescens is a contender for the most common Aloe.  It's probably not a coincidence that it produces abundant offshoots that can be easily cut and rooted.  Aloe vera might be more common and it does produce offshoots, but they have to be dug up.  Its prevalence is most likely the result of its medicinal properties.

I'm not sure how long it will take my hybrids to reach blooming size.  I'd definitely like to see their flowers... but I'm far more curious to see their mature form.  How much phorobana potential will they have?  There's always room for improvement.  It would be really cool to try and cross my hybrids with Karen's hybrids.

Hopefully more people will hybridize Aloes with the goal of creating varieties that make awesome phorobanas.  Kinda like people trying to build better birdhouses.

I'd sure love to see lots of Aloe phorobanas!  Wouldn't you?  Or would you love to see other things?  In all cases it's unfortunate when we overlook valuable things.  This is why it's so important for us to easily improve each other's treasure maps.